Producers of Acclaimed Club 47 Folk Music Film Turn to Fans for Support
by Holley Dey
Do you remember your freshman year roommate? Mine had clear blue eyes and a serious expression that easily gave way to a mischievous grin. We studied the three B’s together: boys, books and booze, not necessarily in that order, and shared the secret understanding that comes from caffeine driven nights and front row seats in Biology 101. Ours was a friendship that came by chance, yet came to stay.
Documentary makers Rob Stegman and Todd Kwait were freshman roommates as well. The pair attended Boston University in the late 1970’s where they shared an interest in film and the creative arts, an interest that continues to this day. Mr. Stegman has more than thirty years experience in film and television production; Mr. Kwait is a lawyer/businessman with a lifelong passion for music and film. For the Love of the Music: The Club 47 Folk Revival is their first feature film collaboration, and the story was inspired by the pivotal role that another set of roommates played in the history of Boston’s famed Club 47.
It was Betsy Siggins that convinced Todd the story needed to be told. Betsy worked at the Club in the 1960’s, then returned in the late 1990’s to support its reincarnation as Club Passim. She carefully preserved the substance and the spirit of the music and times through the creation of the New England Folk Music Archives. Through her connections, the producers were able to reach the artists who formed the core of the folk revival that began in 1958 at 47 Mt. Auburn Street in Cambridge. Bob Dylan, Tom Rush, Judy Collins, Taj Mahal, Maria Muldaur, and Jackie Washington are only some of the artists who contributed music and/or interviews for a documentary that chronicles a “Camelot moment” in the 1960’s when folk music joined hands with social/political activism, and an amazing group of uniquely talented musicians played the small stage not for fame, but for the love of the music.
Coincidentally, Betsy also attended Boston University. Her freshman roommate became the first folk artist to play Club 47. The teenager had performed in various small bars and clubs around town, and came recommended by a Cambridge local. Management was initially reluctant; the Club hosted jazz musicians, not folk, but agreed to audition the young soprano. When Joan Baez took up her acoustic guitar and sang with an angel’s voice, jaws dropped and the Club elected to dedicate one night per week to the growing folk movement.
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The main character in this documentary is the music; the soundtrack includes previously unreleased archival tapes from performances by Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Joan sings “I Will Never Marry”; Dylan performs “Talkin’ World War III Blues”, “With God on Our Side” and a version of traditional hymn “Glory, Glory” with Eric von Schmidt. The story carefully weaves together a melody of the past and present to show the continuity between the original Club on Mt. Auburn Street and the listening room that opened on Palmer Street in 1969. Some of the folk artists that currently perform at Club Passim are featured in the film, including Ellis Paul and Antje Duvekot. There is footage from a recent concert at the Putney School where musicians who played the original Club 47, such as Tom Rush and Jackie Washington Landron, are joined by a new wave of folk artists including the acclaimed sixteen-year-old singer-songwriter Hayley Reardon. The film also acknowledges the social and political tensions that marked the 1960’s, not only on a national level, but within the context of the Club. Jackie Washington was the only black folk musician who performed for a room full of middle class white students from Harvard, MIT and other Boston area colleges. He shares a slightly different perspective on the Club experience than other artists.
For the Love of the Music: The Club 47 Folk Revival was filmed on both east and west coasts. More than twenty hours of taped interviews plus music and concert video became 100 minutes at final cut. The movie has been a festival favorite, earning strong reviews and “Best Documentary” awards in Boston and Los Angeles, as well as warm applause from sellout crowds. If sufficient fan support is provided, the film will soon be made available to a much larger audience via DVD. To achieve that goal, the high cost of relicensing the music must be covered. The producers have initiated a crowd funding project through “Pledge Music”, and hope that sufficient funds can be raised in the next eleven days to allow the project to proceed. To learn more about the DVD project, and to pledge your support, click here.
The following film trailer offers a glimpse of the artists and music included in the film documentary. It’s a look back and a look forward; it’s a film by roommates about roommates and shared with friends. Enjoy!